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"Most women face forward when they throw," he said as we walked over to the pitching area. "They don't coordinate their movements. They don't pivot. They don't move their hips right. You need good coordination. You have to follow through well, and you have to get a good grip on the ball."
Earlier I had sat beside the pitching area and watched Andy Messersmith and others smoothly pitching. Now, as Perranoski and I arrived there and found it vacant of major-leaguers, I kicked off my sandals and stood barefoot on the neat little mound of red dirt where Messersmith had stood. Perranoski eyed the softball I had brought, as if it were cancerous, and insisted that we throw a hardball. That was O.K. with me. I could handle it. After all, I was standing in Messersmith's footprints. As we warmed up, I made an effort to pivot and get my weight behind the ball, instead of just flinging it with my arm. Most of my throws were wide, but at least they had some speed. Several small children wearing gloves watched wistfully, so I tried to pretend to myself that a childhood dream had finally come true.
"You're pretty coordinated," Perranoski said when we finished. "Your main problem is that you aren't getting a good grip on the ball." He showed me how to hold the ball across its seams with two fingers. "Sometimes you twist your wrist at the release. Keep your wrist straight and the ball will go straight. You'll get it," he called back to me as he headed off to the showers.
"I'll get it," I nodded, chewing hard on my Gator gum.
Sandy Koufax, a pitching coach during spring training and the man with perhaps the most admired arm in baseball history, was watching batting practice when I approached him. I asked him why women have a hard time throwing. It was not a well-phrased question, because some women can throw well, but I wanted him to explain to me what "the woman problem" was—if there was one—and how I could overcome it. His response was friendly and direct.
"I don't know," he said grinning. "A doctor could help you more than I can. I wouldn't think it would have anything to do with the muscles. More likely the skeleton and the structure of the joints. But I really don't know."
I stared down hard at the Band-Aid on a toe that stuck out from my sandal. I was stunned. If Sandy Koufax didn't know about arms, who did?
"It's an interesting question," he said, "and I'd be curious to know the answer. Why don't you go and talk to Dr. Frank Jobe?"
"Thanks, I will," I said, and I went off to find out who Dr. Jobe was. I learned that he is the doctor who reconstructed Pitcher Tommy John's left arm by transplanting a tendon from his right arm so he could pitch better. And it worked. I headed over to the Dodgertown clinic. Although I had picked up some tips on throwing, no one had been able to tell me whether a woman's arm is physically different from a man's. I wondered on my way to see Dr. Jobe if he had any of Tommy John's right arm tucked away in a drawer somewhere. If so, would he mind just sticking a little piece of it in my right arm? I was all geared up to look at subcutaneous diagrams of muscles, tendons and joints.
After spending a rowdy 10 minutes in the waiting room playing catch with two players who were demonstrating back-spin to me, I was admitted into Dr. Jobe's office.